Battlefield Memorials in the South (Revolutionary War)
First Battle Ground of the American Revolution to be Marked and Preserved is in North Carolina Twenty Seven Monuments have been erected to Southern Heroes
Photographs Contributed by
Honorable Joseph M. Morehead
Greensboro, North Carolina
President of the Guilford Battle Ground Association
Published in the Journal of American History, 1908
THE only battlefield of the American Revolution that has been permanently preserved and marked as a national park is in North Carolina. Bunker Hill is marked by its historic monument; Yorktown has a memorial to its valor; Valley Forge is maintained by the historic state of Pennsylvania and thousands of other American landmarks have been erected by the loyal descendants of the founders of the republic, but the battlefield of Guilford Courthouse in North Carolina alone stands intact as it did on that epoch-making day, Thursday, March 15, 1781, when Lord Cornwallis, proud in his successful conquest of Georgia and South Carolina, advanced into North Carolina to be met by five thousand Southern patriots who halted his triumphant sweep under the British flag and drove its gallant bearers from the soil of North Carolina and then on to Virginia where Lord Cornwallis gave his sword to Washington, the father of a new nation that was to become the greatest moral, political and commercial force on the face of the earth.
It is now generally acknowledged that this was the turning point in the American Revolution. General Henry Van Ness Boynton, one of the most distinguished federal officers in the Mississippi Valley campaigns during the Civil War, in delivering an oration on the Guilford battleground said:
“I come before you, a son of Massachusetts, having an ancestor among the Minute Men called out by the battle of Lexington and another, a private solider at Bunker Hill, but in celebrating the Revolutionary period, we should not forget that the fires of patriotism, of defiance to British authority and of independence burned brightly in North Carolina long before Lexington, or Concord, or Bunker Hill; or that the last legislature of this state to recognize royal authority was that of March, 1774. Upon this soil in North Carolina the first battle against unjust taxation and other British oppression was fought in the Colonial Era, the first Declaration of Independence was issued, and upon this memorable battle ground the high water mark of foreign invasion the tide ebbed swiftly away to British surrender at Yorktown. Behold the mile posts, which history has set up along that shining way which led straight to American Independence Alamance, Mecklenburg, Moore’s Creek, King’s Mountain, Cowpens, Guilford Courthouse, Yorktown!”
It is to commemorate this triumphal path to American liberty that granite boulders have been erected to mark every strategic point leading to the first decisive battle in the founding of the republic. Twenty-seven monuments have been erected on this field, tracing the progress of the struggle for freedom. This first patriotic movement of its kind in America was organized by Judge David Schenk of Greensboro, North Carolina, and through the contributions of those interested in the beginning of the revolution of the American Republic, it has become a national park in which not only is erected memorials to the Carolinians, Marylanders, Delawareans and Virginians who gave their lives to the founding of the nation, but to all noble sacrifices on the battlefield whether they be from the North or the South or from Britain itself.
It is not generally known in England or in America that here, on this battlefield, the American people have erected a memorial to the heroism of a British soldier. In speaking of it, A. Richmond Parkhurst, Jr., who recently visited the battlefield says: Erected by subscriptions of the people of the neighborhood, is the marble shaft over the grave of Lieutenant Colonel James Stuart of the Second Queen’s Guards. This valiant Britisher fell in the skirmish following the turning of the artillery on the Continentals by Lord Cornwallis. He was buried on the field, and his body was found many years later and identified by his uniform trappings and his personal effects buried with him. The monument in New York to Major Andre is the only other memorial to a British officer in this country. The only monument erected to a woman in the American Revolution also stands on this battlefield Mrs. Kerenhappuch Turner, of Maryland. Her son had been badly wounded in the battle and, mounting a horse at her home north of the Potomac, she rode steadily southward until she reached his side, finding him in the throes of a fever that almost consumed him. Boring holes in the bottom of a tub, she suspended it above the cot on which he tossed and raved.
This she filled with water, carried from a spring far distant, and allowed it to drip upon his fever-parched body until the internal fires had been quenched and his recovery assured. A pedestal of granite supports the bronze statue of Mrs. Turner, represented as wearing an apron over her gown, and a cap. In one hand she bears a cup and saucer and in the other is carried a spoon. Beside her monument, and beneath an “A” shaped tent rests the body of Captain James A. Morehead, her grandson, a North Carolinian, who was shot down in battle. Two of Mrs. Turner’s grandsons later became Governors of two Southern States, one of North Carolina, and the other of Kentucky. Still another went to the United States Senate, while a direct descendant, Honorable Joseph M. Morehead, is in charge of the battleground today as president of the Association.
Here also is the only monument erected to a boy hero of the War of Independence “Gillies,” the boy bugler, whose clarion calls transmitted the orders of “Light Horse” Harry Lee to his men. This was erected with the funds donated by the boys and girls of Greensboro’s public schools. Here it was that Harry Lee fell, fighting to the last, after having been cut to pieces by the merciless charge of Tarleton’s dragoons.
Maryland and her troops are represented on Guilford Field by a handsome granite boulder surmounted by bronze tablets, one of which bears the seal of the state, while on the other is an inscription showing that the monument is a tribute to the Maryland heroes, and erected under the auspices of the Maryland Historical Society. Maryland’s quota of troops was included in the Continental Army. General Webster, after defeating the first two lines of militia, marched with confidence against the regulars, but was repulsed with great slaughter by the Second Maryland Regiment, under command of Colonel Gunby, and after he was wounded under the command of Lieutenant Colonel John Eager Howard. It will be recalled that the present site of the Washington monument in Baltimore, the first monument to be erected to the memory of the “Father of our Country,” was presented to the city of Baltimore by John Eager Howard, whose descendants, in great numbers, live in Baltimore to-day.
Guilford Battleground stands today of the spirit of our forefathers as still lives in the hearts of the American people. In its museum is treasured mementoes of many Revolutionary conflicts and the colonial days. As General Boynton of New England so truly said: “Those patriotic citizens who originated and have carried forward this park project deserve well not only of their state, but of the nation. They have blazed the way along lines of action which every state should follow whose soil was glorified by a Revolutionary battlefield. When the country comes to know, what they have done here, it will be both a revelation and an incentive to similar efforts elsewhere. The fame of their work must yet fill the land, and the honors which are their due be abundantly bestowed.